Fresh foods are best for your dogs nutritional needs

Deb’s journey to feeding her dogs a whole food diet.

As a kid,  I remember the dog foods of the 70s and 80s.   Many of these brands made their way into our family home.  The criteria was simple, what ever was on sale.  They were convenient, inexpensive , and these companies poured money into their marketing departments to appeal to the growing numbers of pet dog owners.  But you know what…….they did not smell, feel, or even resemble  “real food”.

No judgement….we all started somewhere.

Fast forward to the 21st century.  I had my first house.  I adopted my first dog Norman,  a black lab mix.  One of the first decisions I had to make for Norman was what should I feed him.  I’ve lost count how many different brands of kibble he ate over the years we were together.  He was an itchy dog and I tried over and over again to adjust his kibble diet hoping to find “the right food”.I didn’t realize I had other options right away.

The raw feeding movement was new to me and to be honest it intimidated me to think about providing him a healthy raw diet.

I wasn’t sure how to start, what to feed, or how much to feed.

But I met a new friend who became our raw feeding mentor:  Nina.  She is now one of my best friends and my fellow Progressive Pup blogger

She was our guide, Dogs Naturally Magazine was our bible, and the rest is history.

So here is how I progressed from feeding kibble.   By sharing this I hope it might give you the support and ideas that you need in o rder to improve your dogs diet as well.

Air or Freeze Dried Kibble

Kibble dog foods are popular and have been a mainstay since the 70s because they are shelf stable, convient, inexpensive, and appear to provide your dogs nutritional requirements.  But I want you to be informed that the sources of the proteins, fillers, and synthetic nutrients come from questionable sources including China.

We, the consumers,  the loving pet parents are learning more and more about how kibble is actually harming and also killing our dogs.  It is an unfortuante truth that you only need to read a newspaper or watch the national news to hear that there is another major recall of kibble pet food that are causing pet deaths. No matter if you continue to feed kibble and any other diet please stay informed about dog food recalls by using this website link

For just a few dollars I urge you to view the documentary “Pet Fooled“.    Be advised this is a difficult film to watch but it will change your life and certainly change your dogs life after you decide to feed more real whole foods.

There are still a handful of kibble like brands that I would recommend and use on a small scale as training treats.  Those brands are Ziwi Peaks, Vital Essentials, and Real Meat.  These are freeze dried or air dried real or raw dog foods.  When I’m not using them for treats then I use whole real food like organic cheese cubes, boiled chicken, DIY dehydrated meat, or homemade doggy meatballs.

Dehydrated foods

Next step in the evolution of better nutrition and less process food for Norman led us to Honest Kitchen.  Honest Kitchen sells dehydrated premixes of prepared protein,  vegetables, and some fruit that only needs to be rehydrated to feed.  Norman , he was a lab after all, was not a picky eater and thoroughly enjoyed the taste.  And I enjoyed seeing and smelling the real food that made up his meals.

Today Honest Kitchen is still making those same great products and we utilize them from time to time when traveling.  You can purchase either a base mix that you can add your protein and organs too.  Or you can buy the entire recipe that includes the protein in a dehydrated mix.  There are a plethora of other brands making the same types of dehydrated real food recipes.  A few to check out are Sojos, Grandma Lucy’s, and Dr. Harvey’s.

I consider myself a lazy raw feeder and currently am rotating between using Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance and Paradigm with the rest of my dogs raw whole ground animal raw meat diet.

Premade Frozen Meals

Another options is pre-packaged frozen raw diets.  The first one we tried was by Nature’s Variety.  Our AJ, the Chinese crested, is a finicky boy.  He is not super excited about food.  He was eating Honest Kitchen ok but we wanted to start feeding something closer to fresh raw meat.  An added bonus for us was that it was fairly easy get because we could purchase it from our veterinary office.    Pet stores at the time did not have freezers full of frozen raw brands yet.

This went well for quite awhile.  Norman and AJ loved Nature’s Variety.  They always looked forward to meal time and AJ would play ” kill his dinner” by whipping his toys around the room. We loved their enthusiasm for their meals but they also thrived in many other ways.  They both had less issues with their anal glands and their bowl movements were smaller, more formed.  Aj’s skin cleared up and he quit smelling like a corn chip, seriously.  That was many years ago and now there are a plethora of other great brands on the market:  Primal,  Steve’s Real Food, Vital Essentials and Darwins just to name a few.

Raw Fresh Whole Foods

Finally if you read my “about Deb” page you know that I’m a life long student of all things dog, including nutrition.  I’m currently enrolled in a mentored program to learn how to better formulate my own raw balanced meals.  Some might say it is not difficult, you can balance and rotate proteins over time.    Others are going to say that it is not easy, you need to balance each meal.

This is where raw or whole food feeding can get confusing and intimidating.  Honestly there is still so much that needs to be learned about what truly are the nutritional requirements for a healthy dog.   The current AAFCO requirements are minimums, not optimal requirements.  So don’t let all these opinions and fear mongerers stop you from improving your dogs diet.  What is known is that feeding the same cereal based diet to your dog day in and day out is not optimal for their health or their happiness.

When you are ready to feed an entire fresh food diet,  it is a good idea to invest in the purchase of some books or an online course.  Here are links to some of my favorite resources:

  1. Click here to purchase some recipes over at my favorite people, Rodney Habib, at Planet Paws.
  2. Dr. Ihor Basko’s book “Fresh Food and Ancient Wisdom”
  3. Dr. Judy Morgan’s books “Canine Kitchen Capers” and “Yin and Yang Nutrition for Dogs” 
  4. “Dogs Naturally Magazine Certification Course for Advanced Canine Nutrition”

And the next best step to consult with a canine nutritionist.  Of course I can’t leave you hanging there.  Here are some folks you could work with to ensure you are feeding a healthy whole food diet each and everyday.

  1. Monica Segal
  2. Cat Lane at “The Possible Canine”
  3. “The Balanced Canine” 

There is no better time than the present

There is no better time then now to start to take control of where the food comes from that nourishes your dogs body, heart and soul. The goods news is the alternative to feeding kibble continue to be more and more plentiful.

First,  try replacing 20% of the kibble you feed with any of the following fresh whole foods.

  • raw or cooked meat
  • canned salmon or sardines in spring water (not flavored or in oil)
  • raw or cooked eggs
  • plant matter safe for dogs:  leafy green vegetables, cooked pumpkin, cooked sweet potato, carrots, cucumber, zuchini, apples, bananas, watermellon, parsley, spinach, kale, ground pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, soaked chia seeds, ground tumeric, and ginger.
  • bone broth (if store bought make sure there are no onions)
  • kefir
  • unsweetened natural yogurt
  • spirulina

When we know better, we do better!